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Students Visit Historical Sites on Spring Trip

n the photo, L-R Rebecca Edwards, Robert Reigel, Andrea Graham, and Heather Humber on the garden walk behind Monticello.
6/3/2009 —

DuBois - Honors students at Penn State DuBois took their spring trip, in May, to Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.  The trip involved a day and night in Washington, DC, a day at Monticello with a stop at the University of Virginia to see the old campus designed by Thomas Jefferson, and then a night and hike the following day in Shenandoah National Park.  The group was led by Honors Coordinator James May and Librarian Karen Fuller.  Students on the trip included Leah Crosley of Brockport, Rebecca Edwards of Glen Campbell, Andrea Graham of Woodland, Heather Humbert of Beaver County, and Robert Reigel of James City. 

Students examined the displays at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, particularly of marine life, minerals, and fossils. For Crosley, who has an interest in geology, the mineralogical exhibitions of unbelievably shaped and colored crystals were worth the time on the road.  Some students then toured the National Gallery of Art, the Air and Space Museum, and the Museum of American History. 
 
All found fascinating the tour of Monticello and its grounds, where Jefferson’s gardens, vineyard, and orchards are still maintained.  Although everyone is familiar with Monticello’s main design from the American nickel, there is much to learn at the home about Jefferson’s ingenuity and architectural principles and about life on his eighteenth-century plantation.

"Most striking is how Jefferson’s design combined the practical with the beautiful," May said.  "The guides explain how the hillside had been contoured, the interior spaces fully utilized, the layout adapted to heating and water-shortage problems. 

"As a graduate of the wildlife program, I absolutely loved the zoo and Shenandoah National Park," Graham said. "But I also really enjoyed Monticello, which is a place I probably never would have visited on my own."

The group toured Jefferson’s “Academic Village” designed for the University of Virginia, whose founding Jefferson credited on his tombstone as one of his three main achievements.  The original campus is still in use.  It has a large building, “the Rotunda,” formerly the library and main lecture hall at one end, below which runs a lawn, or mall, flanked by long rows of student apartments, broken repeatedly with two-story sections that held supervising faculty’s families, dining halls, and classrooms.

Professor May remarked that this was one of the most successful trips the campus has offered honors students since they began in 1985, “in large part because all the students were mature, considerate, and thoughtful.  They kept up from the start a stimulating series of conversations during the long drives and over meals, not just about what the group was seeing but also about environmental and educational issues and problems.”

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